Background: Integrated working between health and social care services within England has been encouraged by Government policy in the last decade, and has been argued to provide a seamless, joined up experience for service users(Department of Health 2011). One way of integrating care is through the use of a single point of access to health and social care services. A single point of access to services has been trialled in mental health and learning disability services to improve access, and following on from policy (e.g. Department of Health 2007) and support from literature (Rogers, Entwistle & Pencheon 1998; Lovell &Richards 2000; Raine, Carter, Sensky & Black 2005)a single point of access to health and social care for older adults has been implemented in parts of the UK. This thesis examines the implementation of one such single point of access.Objectives: The aim of the study was to examine the single point of access and whether it had any impact upon integrated working within a county in England, UK. Methods: An ethnographic approach was taken, using a combination of methods including interviews, focus groups and observations. This was complemented by a grounded theory approach to analysis.Findings: The single point of access had an adverse effect upon integration. The poor management of change and lack of communication led to issues within the single point of access such as failure of IT systems and duplication. Staff became frustrated and disengaged from the process, and consequently reported feeling disempowered, retreating back to their professional 'tribes'.Conclusion: Firm conclusions about the efficacy of a single point of access with regard to its effect upon integrated working could not be reached. However, the findings suggest that clear communication, continued change management and recognition of professional culture are decisive factors when attempting to integrate health and social care. Further research into the impact of a single point of access upon integration as well as outcomes for service users is recommended.
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